Friday, March 28, 2014

14 years of motor bliss...

Thats's our car Eddy, dead in his tracks in the road in front of our house.
 We were just returning from a trip to Costco.  We had an important meeting in just over an hour.  We pulled up in front of the house, and it died.  and I couldn't get it to move.  It's a blessing, we weren't still at Costco stranded with refrigerated food and 30 minutes from home.  We weren't in the middle of the road somewhere in between.  After trying to figure out what to do, neighbors helped us push it into the garage.  We'll figure it out tomorrow.

In 14 years this is our first car trouble.  We've been over 200,000 kilometers just on Japanese soil alone with no trouble.  We've been probably more than 40,000 miles around the US with no trouble.  And countless airplane miles with no issues as well (not counting delays and canceled flights).  The Lord has kept us safe and very well taken care of.  Who knows what blessing this will lead to...

Looking forward to seeing what He's up to.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

14 years...

March 11 is our wedding anniversary.  14 years ago we began this great adventure.  What a wild ride it has been.  So full of God's goodness.  Amazing things, miraculous events, God moments and good times abound.  Hard times have abounded as well.  ALL have been for His great glory and I wouldn't change any of it for the world.

I remember being 15 or 16 and having boy trouble.  I remembering praying one time, "God, just show me his face.  Just show me a glimpse of the man you have planned for me to marry.  If I can just have one peek then I'll be content knowing he's out there.  I'll wait patiently until he comes and stop messing with all these other clowns."

I should have just been content to wait, without a peek.  I should have waited patiently with no guarantees.  If I'd had the faith to know just how incredible the life and mate The Lord had planned for me was going to be, I would have saved myself tons of wasted time, and a lot of heartache.

But all that is water under the bridge.  Times redeemed by my Savior.  Praise God He still shines through broken jars of clay.  All Glory to my Jesus who paid the highest price for this tattered earthen vessel.

But one thing is for sure about love and marriage, you can't do it without Him.  Without His love and guidance.  Without His grace and mercy.  Living with and loving another person until death do us part is an impossible task for a mere human.  Two thoroughly flawed individuals, thrown together, becoming one, does not make a whole and perfect relationship.  Without His redeeming love, I can't fathom how it's possible.

We owe it all to Him and glory to Him.  But I know this, my Sugarpie is one pretty special individual.  He is the one God hand picked for me.  I can't wait to see what the next 20, 30, 40 years or more brings.

Dinner on our overnight anniversary celebration.
Sunset from our ocean view seats at the restaurant.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

You are what you eat.

I remember when I was called to missions a little over 17 years ago, my prayer to God was this...
"Lord, I'll go anywhere you want me to go, I'll do anything you want me to do.  I'm not sure about places like California.  Or sleeping in a hammock in a dusty village in the desserts of Africa, but if you call me I'll go."  That was my image of missions.  Trying to reach pagans in California and the desserts of Africa while living in uncomfortable conditions.

Now 17 years later I laugh.  I'm a missionary to the most modern country in the world.  Where toilet seats have more buttons and options than my kitchen mixer.  My rice cooker will also bake cake and both raise and bake bread. Within 5 miles of my house are at least 3 public bath houses with luxury features like salt saunas, jet whirl pool baths, baths in 5 different temperatures to choose from, indoor and outdoor pools to enjoy, Korea massage scrub, Chinese massage, and sweat houses with about 15 different sweat huts to choose from (all starting at the price of about $6).  The only thing I can not get in Japan is a thick juicy steak for $15 and Dr. Pepper within 30 minutes of my house.  But even those things I CAN have if I want them.  I can see my family and friends face to face and talk as long as I want for free, anytime (something that has changed since I first arrived but...).  I have heat, air conditioning, even a Western style bed and kitchen table.  Even where most missionaries are concerned, here in Japan as we serve we lack nothing.  Litterally the ONLY thing I have not been able to purchase here is flavored Coffee Mate.  But even that I can get online if I want it.

When I was called to missions the one thing people often asked me is, "But what about the food over there?"  When I asked I might crinkle my nose and comment about how I'd have to get used to it.  But I never really worried about it.  I knew that at least I could survive on rice.

The first thing that I remember being UNABLE to stomach was a serving of Yakisoba (friend noodles) that was placed before me at a festival.  It was topped with fish shavings that were waving around and "dancing" in the steam from the noodles, and I just couldn't bring myself to put something that was moving in my mouth (even though these are dried shaved fish flakes, completel dead).  The fish shavings were VERY thinly sliced dried fish that were simply responding to the steam coming off the food.  But I couldn't stomach it.  However the third or fourth time I was served a food with dancing fish shavings, I ate it and it wasn't bad.  Since then, it hasn't bothered me.

The second thing that I absolutely COULDN'T eat was natto beans.  Fermented soy beans.  Nuff said, I couldn't eat it. But now, I can.  It took 14 years, but a couple of years ago my inlaws left some in the fridge after a visit and I decided to give it another try.  I loved it, and even crave it sometimes now.  I mean hey, it's really no different than cheese!  Cheese is aged, stinky and you really have to wonder who came up with the idea to eat such a thing.  So why not stinky beans.

Early on, however, I found a way to make myself try anything.  I soon learned that I usually liked or could tolerate most things.  But some things I loved right away.

One of those things was fresh sashimi.  OH, you have never tasted anything yummier than really fresh squid!!!  It is soft to chew, slightly sweet, and not at all "fishy"!  I LOVE it.  And my most favorite......  so fresh the legs are still moving.  Near our home is an area that has several restaurants that specialize in fresh squid.  You walk in and order, and the chef comes and catches the squid out of the tank in the middle of the restaurant.  Within minutes the plate is on your table and the legs are still moving.  We eat the body portion which has been sliced, and the legs are taken away and tempura fried.  OH YUM!!!

I was so busy eating I never got a picture of the fresh cut up squid, but here are some in the tank at the restaurant.

We also had fresh blow fish the other night....

That's my plate of blow fish.  It was SO good.

But this time at the restaurant we were served something it took my a while to put in my mouth.  Fresh moving baby icefish.  No one in our family had ever had them before.  They were very active.  I couldn't put them in my mouth till they calmed down and stopped moving in my soy sauce.
I'll try to come back later and post a video of Rocky eating them.  Really you just drink them down.  Just swallow, don't chew.  I did it, but it took several minutes.  I thought that basically there was nothing here I couldn't eat but I found one more challenge.  Next time (if there ever is a next time) I'm gonna do my best to eat em up when they are still moving around.  It's my personal challenge!!!

I never know anymore where the American side of me ends and the Japanese side begins.  Rocky always says I was born in the wrong place, should have been born in Japan.  I don't know about that, but I know sometimes I can't believe where I am, who I've become and the things I enjoy now.  God truly can do amazing things in us!  And I bet that I really could handle California, or that hammock in Africa if He calls me there.  I hope...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Days I dread...

There are very few things I dread.  Of course there are future events that will certainly come, that I dread.  I dread the day our kids leave our home for life as grown up adults.  Well that one I dread and dream of all at the same time, LOL!  I dread the day I will lose family members. Those are natural dreads.

As a homeschool Mom, I was dreading the day I would hear, "I hate homeschool.  I want to go to public school."  For most homeschool parents that day comes.  You may hear it more than once or twice even.  But I was dreading it.  Secretly hoping it would never come, that my children would naturally love being at home with us and learning with us more than that big ol' cold building across the street.  But I knew I would face this day with my little social butterfly.  I knew it was coming.

Since she could talk, her first question every morning has been, "What donnin' day?"  (What are we doing today?)  If the answer was nothing, you could see the disappointment in her eyes.  No grand adventures today?  No people to see?  No new places to discover?  No long, exhilirating hours out in the world!???  OH the tragedy of it all!!!!

When she was a little girl, those days at home all day were often the hardest.  I was faced with one bored little girl.  Toys?  Who needs toys?  She wanted people to be around, to talk to and basically rope into adoring her.  Because who wouldn't adore my sweet, beautiful oldest social butterfly.

I KNEW this day in homeschool would come with her.  She would much rather be with people.  And she's much rather be just like everyone else and not be different.

She also doesn't love or even really like anything about schooling.  She'd rather flit from activity to activity.  She picks up a book, looking at page 1, 2, 3 then 15 and back to 10.  She'd rather change her baby doll's diaper, feed it, put it to sleep.  Jump over to her bird and talk to her for a while.  Change out Anna's bird food and water, play a song on the piano, run around the room like a horse on all fours, play the piano song again half way through, flip off the piano and run back to the book.  This time reading page 22, 21, 50 and 4.  In that order.  There is nothing remotely exciting about finally finishing ALL the multiplication tables.  Day 100 of school?  hmmm, how's that different from day 27, 40  and 53??  The Trojan's, what's so exciting about a big wooden horse (this from my HORSE LOVER).  The men could crawl inside the horse and sneak inside the city. hmmm.  Write an entire Psalm in BEAUTIFUL cursive,  so.

She asks me about 5 times a day, can I text Abby?  She CRAVES interaction with people.  The three other humans in her home will do for a little bit but...  She's an active, people lovin, free spirited darling.   I wouldn't trade her for the world.  But she'd rather do anything but school.   And if public school means being around people well then of COURSE, in her mind that's the much better option.  She doesn't remember what it was like to sit at a desk almost all day everyday.  To be forced to do roat memorization for hours on end.  To listen and not speak for hours.  To do it exactly as the teacher means for you to, and no other way, no questions asked.  She doesn't know about that part...

I totally get that.  And I think it's beautiful that God has given her such a heart for people.  I KNOW this is her gifting and He's going to use it in a powerful way in her life.

We have chosen homeschool for very specific reasons.  Very solid reasons surrounded in prayer.  I knew in my heart when we were deciding whether to homeschool or not that this would be her struggle.  But I KNOW that God called us to this.  He has called us to homeschool.  So we might disciple our children in His Word from the very beginnning and how His word has an impact on all knowledge and wisdom.  So that we may teach them freedom of thought and to love themselves and others because of who we are in God's eyes.  So we may travel and minister as a team, a whole family, each with our gifts that give to this ministry and make it what it is.  So that they may see real life, and not be locked into 4 walls all day everyday with the same 30 others kids the same age as they.  So that they will learn to be responsible and functioning adults from early on, as we guide them in the ways of daily life from a godly perspective.

If it weren't for these very specific reasons we have chosen homeschool, I might have given up by now.  Hearing those words from her this week, they might have been the ax to the root of my homeschool tree.  If it weren't for the fact that we are called to this.

This morning our Bible scripture was 1 Samuel 8.  I didn't plan this, it was on the schedule.  God did it!  The Isrealites asked for a king.  The reason they wanted one was striking to me.  They wanted a king because all the other nations around them had one.  They wanted to be like everyone else.  They didn't want to be set apart.  They didn't want to experience exactly what God had for them, because it made them different.  It meant a certain level of separation to follow completely what God had called that people to.  They didn't like to be set apart, to live holy lives.  They wanted to be like those around them.

Hana sat and listened to our study this morning with her face half hidden behind her turtle neck.  She knew this applied to her desire to be like all the other kids and to be with the other kids in public school.  And the sheepish grin on her face spoke volumes.

We talked about how God wanted to save them from all kinds of heart ache.  The Israelites saw how cool it looked to have a king.  They saw the pomp and circumstance, but they didn't think about the heartache and hardship that comes with having a king, a fallable leader who might not walk with God.  God wanted to protect them from that.  But they insisted they must have a king.  They did not want to be set apart for a Holy King, they wanted to be like everyone else.

I pray that Hana's heart will see that being set apart and not being exactly like all the other kids is God's special plan for her life.  She is set apart for a Holy King.  He has special plans for her life, and we want to prepare her fully for what He has for her in the future.  I pray her heart will accept that.  I pray she'll find contentment in what the King of kings has for her.

Hana with her most recent science experiment.  Incidentally Science IS the one area of homeschool she LOVES.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Where do you start...

When you've left off for almost 3 years, where do you start?  I'm not sure where, so I'll just dive in.

Lately I have been taking Experiencing God and using it as a guide to write Bible study for our kids in this church plant.  EG was a Bible study I went through about 18 years ago as a college student.  I have mostly forgotten its content, I just remember it was very eye opening to me.  It had a great impact on my faith.  Going back through it in detail has been so amazing.  I never realized many of the foundational things I believe about the Bible are things I learned in this study.  The main thing, is that this study teaches how God is at work and He asks us to join Him in that!

Why does God choose us to work with?  I'll never cease to be amazed by that.  I watch over and over again how the Israelites let God down and wonder why He never gave up on man.  In homeschool we are going through the Old Testament.  Humans are SO wishy washy, especially when it comes to following and pleasing God.  The Hebrews would follow Him when it benefited them, or when they feared Him too much to disobey, but they would soon forget and go their own way.

I pray we can continue to stay close to The Lord and see how He is at work around us.  I LOVE joining Him in what He is doing.  It is addictive.  Thoroughly mezemerizing.  I love being called to work with Him.  LOVE IT!!!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Earthquake here 3/11

We are okay! We are WAY south, far from the major devastation. We are under tsunami watch and we do live near the coastline. It is midnight and I hope that I can bring myself to get some sleep at some point tonight.

But I just sat staring at a picture on the news of the tsunami hitting Sendai. In the foreground of the pictures sat calm and order. Nice rows of crops, cars parked in perfect lines in parking lots. Houses in their rightful place with yards and trees around them. And just inches away is the wall of the water bringing chaos and destruction. In just moments all that order and structure would be destroyed.

I can't help but feel that this reflects the internal condition of so many Japanese. On the outside by all appearances, they have it all together. Everything is orderly and calm. But on the inside, so often there is chaos and really broken hearts and shattered spirits rest on the inside, just inches away from that peaceful exterior.

Only God can heal a nation like this, both spiritually and physically. My deepest and loudest prayer is that this kind of tragedy will open up the Japanese spirit. That hearts would break and pour out. That many would stop hiding behind that hard, rigid exterior. That a flood of true emotion and repentance would break forth, and by God's power and grace, he would bring healing and put it all back together again!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chicken Egg Stew

So a couple months ago we were at a friends house (Hi Kiko! love ya) and she made this awesome stew. I was totally hooked when I saw her cracking eggs and putting them on top of the stew to cook at the end! SOOOOOO yummy! She said it is an Ethiopian dish she found in a cookbook a long time ago. She doesn't even follow the recipe anymore, so I asked how she makes it and then came home and started working up my own version.

I searched for a dish like this online, but couldn't find anything exactly like it. So I'm just gonna name mine Chicken Egg stew. It comes with the chicken and the egg, although it is also yummy with sausage weiners which is originally the way Kiko makes it. I'm also calling it chicken eggs cause my precious Daddy used to call eggs "chicken eggs". I never realized until much later in life how funny this term is for eggs. Nobody specifies that they are chicken eggs when talking about them, but shouldn't we!? There ARE all kinds of eggs out there! My Dad was a riot! Miss him so much.

Anyhooo, this was our dinner tonight. Are you beginning to wonder if the only thing I cook is stewed type stuff with lots of chopped up veggies??? I have a lot more up my sleeve, but the cold season is coming to an end and I LOVE these types of stews and it is the best way to get lots of veggies in my kids, so I have been cooking this way a lot lately. I hope to add some more variety into sharing what I cook with you soon. Especially more Japanese stuff!

First you will need...

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 Tbsp cooking oil

3 cups celery, chopped

2 onions, diced

2 carrots, diced

salt and pepper

1/2 tsp Paprika

1/2 tsp Parsley

dash of Cayenne pepper (I would add much more if we weren't feeding little ones, so add more if you like spice!)

1/4 tsp Cardamom

1/2 tsp Coriander

salt and pepper to taste

2 cubes buillion

2 cans diced tomatoes

Begin chopping the veggies. I started with my onion...

Then I remembered I forgot to put the rice on to cook. This is a tragedy if you realize it too late! So I paused to wash rice...

rinse and repeat, just like shampoo and conditioner!

Pop it in your handy dandy automatic cooker thingy

Push the button and do a little jig to the fun little tune it plays for you

and go back to chopping your veggies!

Next up, carrots! Same as you may have seen before, we want to dice them up and this is how I do it...

Make several slices along the length of the carrot

Roll it to the side and repeat again.

You'll get a grid like cut like this...

Lay her down there, and chop away!

Repeat all the way up the stem and try to run off the little munchkin that always shows up to steal when carrots are being chopped. Today she tells me, "Mommy, I'm a wabbit!" So cute!

now begin chopping the celery while trying to prevent too many carrot pieces from being stolen!

Distract the thief with your stealth tactics! Show her how pretty the base of a stalk of celery looks!

"Ohhhh Mommy, it looks like a rose!" Continue to distract by discussing how awesome God made the things around us.

Employ the thief, who now becomes your new assitant to chop some more veggies!

She's gonna be a professional chef one day! I just know it!

Chop up some garlic! (Facebook won't give me pictures of garlic from my past album at the moment, so now you know I cheat and don't take pictures of the same thing every time, LOL!)

Now giggle with your assitant as she continues to practice her newfound skill of lighting the stove and JUMPING every time the flame shoots out! I LOVE how far back she stands when she is doing this, LOL!

Ask your assitant to pour some oil in the pan and then turn your back for just a second to put something in the sink, then turn back around to "Mommy is this enough?" with six gallons of oil in the pan! Figure out later how to put some of that oil back in the bottle! LOL. Switch to another frying pan and borrow a little of the 6 gallons from the other pan. Then stash the other pan somewhere so it won't show up in all your pictures!

Heat garlic on low heat in the frying pan until it begins to sizzle.

Realize at this moment you didn't get pictures of the chicken being cut into bite size pieces cause you were too busy making sure no little fingers got cut off in the process. So add your chicken that was cut up earlier into the oil and brown it on the outside!

This beautiful collection of goodness should be waiting nearby.

Dump it all in and stir fry till veggies are tender.

Give a little darling a cup of milk! Marvel at how adorable he is! Don't marvel too long and forget about the 6 year old with fire behind you!

Once veggies are tender pour in the two cans of diced tomato. I always fill one can about 1/3 full with water, transfer the water back and forth between the cans to get all the good tomatoey yummines off the sides of the cans, and dump that on in the stew as well.

At this point add the two cubes of boullion and all the spices.

salt and pepper

1/2 tsp Paprika

1/2 tsp Parsley

dash of Cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp Cardamom

1/2 tsp Coriander

salt and pepper to taste

If you like even more heat, I wouldn't hesitate to add some red pepper flakes or more cayenne and Paprika. Pepper is YUMMY in this too, so don't be shy with the pepper if your family can take the heat.

Have your trusty assitant take a few shots, like one after the spices were added while waiting for it to come to a boil.

and one of you covering it with a lid and turning down the flame for this to simmer for about 10~15 minutes.

Stir occassionaly and then after about 10 minutes taste and adjust the flavor if needed.

Now, with the back of a ladel, press into the stew and create a little bowl for a chicken egg to rest.

crack one chicken egg and slide that little feller into the spot you created for him.

Do the same with an egg for each member being served. Master Kiko had SEVEN eggs in her stew the night we were at her house!

cover that with a lid to cook. I set my timer for 5 minutes cause we like our eggs on the runny side. If you like a firm egg yolk, I'd go with 8 minutes or even more.

Now arrange some rice on plate like this. Create sort of an ant hill type of shape here so the stew and egg can be served in the middle and won't run off!

When the eggs are done, carefully ladel out some stew and the egg into each rice hill!

Mine don't look so pretty, I tried really hard to make it look all professional and the harder I tried the more it seemed to fall apart!

I placed each plate on the table as I finished it, and I turned around to see Kai already in his seat and digging in before I'd served everyone and called them to the table! He LOVES this stuff!

There you have it, Chicken egg stew